Homebase to press ahead with further store closures
HOMEBASE is set to press ahead with a second wave of store closures that could see up to 80 DIY outlets shut, putting between 1,500 to 2,000 jobs at risk.
The DIY chain - which has nine stores in Northern Ireland - is expected to announce next week that it will file for a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), a controversial insolvency procedure used by struggling firms to shut under-performing stores.
Restructuring experts at Alvarez & Marsal will carry out the CVA, though Homebase would first have to secure the support of landlords.
But the property industry has expressed consternation at the procedure, which has been adopted by the likes of House of Fraser, Carpetright and Mothercare, saying it leaves them out-of-pocket.
The latest restructuring would come on top of a store closure programme the retailer has been carrying out since February.
A total of 17 Homebase stores have been shut this year and the business has also axed 303 jobs at its head office in Milton Keynes.
The store closures follow the sale of the business by its former Australian owner Wesfarmers to Hilco, a retail turnaround specialist, for £1.
Homebase was bought by Wesfarmers for £340 million in 2016.
Wesfarmers is known for its Bunnings chain in Australia, and attempted to import the home improvement brand to the UK by converting a host of Homebase stores into the Bunnings format.
However, the fast pace of the transition gave Wesfarmers little time to introduce the Bunnings brand, which is highly successful in Australia, to UK consumers.
Prior to the Hilco takeover, Homebase had 250 stores at its peak and 12,000 staff.
Dave Gill of shop-workers' trade union Usdaw said: "Staff in Homebase stores were extremely worried for the future after the announcement of head office job losses; and mounting speculation about store closures is clearly very concerning. I am in touch with the company and providing our members with the representation, support and advice they require at this difficult time.
"Clearly there is a huge task ahead to turn the company around, after it was sold for just one pound following the disastrous ownership by Wesfarmers. It is crucial that the company listens to the staff and invests in their experience and expertise to make a success of the business. That is best achieved through their trade union Usdaw."